Review BH The Lion King 2019
Out of Africa with pride
This is the second time I have seen The Lion King.
The multi-award-winning show went on tour in 2012 and I took a 12-year-old grandson.
We voted it our best musical ever.
And in 2019 I took his 11-year-old sister to the latest production of The Lion King which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome on Thursday night, September 12.
If it is possible to say it is even better than the first time I saw it, well it is – the stage was so full of spectacular you didn’t know where to focus your eyes.
My young plus one left the theatre speechless, saying ‘I don’t have the words to describe how amazing it is’.
Set against the majesty of the Serengeti to the evocative rhythms of Africa, The Lion King tells the story of Simba’s epic journey to fulfil his destiny as King of the Pridelands.
Director Julie Taymor uses breath-taking theatrical magic to bring Disney’s original animated feature to life in a production which has thrilled more than 95 million people around the world.
The show-stopping opening sequence (and I am trying here not to add any spoilers) is awe-inspiring especially the cute wiggly baby elephant with his trunk wrapped around his parent’s tail.
It is visually stunning, musically amazing and the vibrant colours of Africa pop from the veldt - go see, it's a must.
The psychedelic costumes topped by huge face masks against a backdrop of a brilliant blue sky is dazzling - but it is the technicality of the puppetry with all sorts of weird and wonderful contractions to make movement on the ground and in the air, which makes this so special.
That and the gazelle-like skill of the high-flying dancers and the faultless performances of the painted bare-chested people.
From a smelly warthog (Simon Beirnaert) who looks like I imagine Noel Fielding would first thing in the morning and his green man sidekick meerkat (Carl Sanderson) to charging wildebeest, from lanky giraffes on ungainly stilts to weeping lionesses caressed in widows weeds the animals came in droves and command the vast space.
We sat next to Louise from Bolton whose actor boyfriend Simon Trinder (Banzai) is part of a multi-talented trio of hyenas with Rebecca Omogbehin (Shenzi) and Alan Michale (Ed) who are akin to the wicked witches in Macbeth.
Only these weren’t white-robed incarnations of destiny but a cackle of scariness, clad in loosely-fitting, mottled dark grey overalls who lumped and humped along on hoofed feet wearing bovver boots.
Bad guys with Mohican manes that stuck up like toilet brush hair.
Despite the carnivore creatures with piercing laughs, long pink tongues and razor-sharp teeth, geysers and graveyards figure but there are some funny moments among the madness although sometimes the storyline got muddled in my mind with Jungle Book and Madagascar.
Stand-out performances? All of them but must mention Richard Hurst as Scar who plays his part like a posh pantomime villain with high-definition eyebrows, French star Jean-Luc Guizonne as big daddy Mufasa, Thandazile Soni as Rafiki the all-seeing and all-knowing if slightly mad mandrill (think Whoopi Goldberg in Ghosts with a wobbly bottom) who sang what has become the gospel anthem of Africa Nants Ingonyama and Matthew Forbes, the blue-bowler hatted puppeteer, as Zazu the court jester, an uptight, red-billed hornbill.
American actor Dashaun Young with South African Nala Josslynn Hlenti are the grown-up Simba and Nala but their young counterparts Hunter Del Valle Marfo and Minaii Barrowes slightly stole the show and got to ride on a queer life form akin to Big Bird and a kaleidoscopic Dalek.
Since its UK premiere in London in October 1999, The Lion King has played to more than 16 million people and is the West End’s best-selling stage production and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.
Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions it has a cast of more than 50 actors, singers and dancers.
South African composer Lebo M created an evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina.
And Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film.
The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, including the Academy Award-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight and the haunting Shadowland.
Hakuna matata which roughly translates to ‘there are no troubles’ in Swahili is the byword for this show which is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, November 23.
Played to one of the most diverse audiences and dress-to-the-nines audiences I have seen at the Hippodrome the theatre-goes were on their feet clapping and cheering and the cast took several curtain calls.
What it really needed was another chorus of Nants Ingonyama as the finale although it is on constant replay in my head.